Mapping Guatemala-US Migration: A Case Study in Critical Visual Storytelling
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In this research, I document a visual storytelling design study intended to address the persistent gap between critical geographic scholarship and conventional cartographic representation--specifically, the failure of cartographers to ethically and effectively represent the structural and historical forces driving Guatemala–US migration, as well as the personal and emotional repercussions of displacement. To address this problem, I carried out a hybrid design process that synthesizes visual storytelling practices from both academic and professional settings. To center political and ethical considerations as primary drivers of design, I drew on reflexive methods from critical cartography, counter-mapping, and feminist visualization. To prioritize usability and technological innovation, I incorporated practices from professional data journalism and user-centered design. Emphasizing process over product, I documented the development of my visual story from initiation to evaluation, exploring potential tensions and synergies between usability and a critical politics of representation. I successfully identified a wide array of voices, embodied experiences, and uncertainties missing from conventional visual stories of Guatemala-US migration and produced a widely accessible visual story that centers these omissions. This design study offers transferable, contextualized insights for future work at the intersection of critical cartography and data journalism, and suggests the need for increased partnership between visual storytelling practitioners in academic and professional settings.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science (Cartography and Geographic Information Systems) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Advisor: Dr. Robert Roth. Includes Figures, Tables, Survey Data, References. Appendix with Spanish-language survey and working agreement with Colectivo Vida Digna.